Modern Spin on Greek Tragedy Impresses
Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2014 23:01
I should begin with an admission: I have never been much of a theater person. I worked as a stage hand once in high school, I love going to performances and I like to sing “Defying Gravity” at the top of my lungs as much as the next person, but somehow I was never really into staged performances. “A Mouthful of Birds" changed my perception of theater a lot.
I was dubious going into the theater. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever been in a tinier performance space. I was a bit thrown by the title — a mouthful of what? — and wary of the play’s roots in Ancient Greek tragedy. As soon as I entered Devine Theater, though, I was impressed. The small setting gave the performance a very intimate feeling that was further enhanced by the set. A leafy forest canopy encompassed a very whimsical looking swing and a platform that was used creatively throughout the performance.
As soon as the acting started, they had me. Each actor had a main role in the scenes in addition to ensemble roles and they were all amazing. Among the different dialects the actors effortlessly switched between, the precisely-executed choreography that included several brawls, a view into the mind of a character as she loses it and the general feelings of angst and dissatisfaction that each character radiated, there really was no weak link.
The play itself was fantastic in every sense of the word. “A Mouthful of Birds” tied together modern-day struggles with the conflict between Dionysus and the Thebans in Euripides’ “The Bacchae,” but somehow, it all made sense. The same characters that often haunted struggling citizens of modernity were frolicking maenads one minute and ferocious assailants the next. A prisoner is able to kill fellow inmates with only a graceful touch as wardens of two separate prisons squabble over who must assume responsibility; a woman’s mind betrays her, leading her to commit a violent crime against her family; and a man’s affection for the woman in his life is transferred to a farm animal. I don’t want to give the whole thing away, but trust me when I say it only gets more interesting.
Despite its tragic nature, “A Mouthful of Birds” surprised me with moments of extreme comedy, albeit in its own dark way. The performance’s unforeseen humor, social commentary and psychological allusions fused together three of Director Brendan Quinn’s (COL ’14) greatest loves: theater, psychology and Greek tragedy.
“The style of this theater is expressionistic and sort of dream logic which I really respond to,” Quinn said on why he chose “A Mouthful of Birds” for his senior thesis. “The combination of the Bacchae with all of the psychology given in the play and [with] the sort of stylistic nature in the playwright Caryl Churchill led me to choose ‘A Mouthful’ as my academic thesis.” I, for one, am glad that he did.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of “A Mouthful of Birds.” All the acting was incredible, I enjoyed the expressionist nature of the play and I felt myself worrying about the characters as if they were my friends. Go support Brendan Quinn and the cast and crew in their production. You’ll leave with an interesting perspective on modernity and an appreciation for the talent displayed in the pocket-sized “A Mouthful of Birds” Devine Theater.